Comics 101: Robin I/Nightwing/Batman II

This is the Robin you know if you came of age in the 1960s, watching the Batman television series. He’s Dick Grayson, one third of The Flying Graysons, part of Haley’s Circus. The circus came to Gotham City, where gangster Tony Zucco pressured the ringmaster to hand over protection money. The ringmaster refused and during that night’s performance the trapeze was cut, causing Dick’s parents to fall to their deaths. Bruce Wayne is in the audience that night, and sees himself in the emotionally scarred boy. Over the next few weeks, Dick is adopted by Bruce Wayne and comes to live in Wayne Manor. Dick goes exploring the mansion one day, and discovers the Batcave. Bruce reveals his double life and tells Dick that, if he wishes to use his anger about his parents’ deaths for good, he will train him. Fashioning a costume based on his family’s circus outfits, Dick becomes Robin, a beacon of light to counterpoint the darkness of Batman. A superhero good cop/bad cop sort of.

After a couple years working exclusively with Batman in Gotham, Dick ended up fighting a villain with other teenaged sidekicks. The result of this meeting was the formation of the Teen Titans, a sort of junior Justice League. Dick began devoting more and more time to the Titans while also attending college outside of Gotham. He frequently returned to help Batman on various cases and team-up with love interest Batgirl. Things change when, during a battle with The Joker, Dick is shot and rushed to the E.R. Once out of critical condition, Batman tells him he can’t put his adopted son in danger anymore. Dick is furious and parts ways with Batman on bad terms. He devotes himself fully to running the Teen Titans and the team receives some new members around this time, in particular Starfire, an alien princess whom Dick develops a relationship with. He eventually takes a leave of absence from the crime fighting game, discarding the Robin identity and looking to discover himself.

Dick spends some time in Metropolis with his other childhood mentor, Superman. Superman tells him the story of an ancient Kryptonian cast out of his family and wanted to help the helpless. He adopted a masked identity called Nightwing. Dick is inspired by this story and returns to his friends in the Teen Titans. He finds his teammates have been captured by their enemy Deathstroke the Terminator, and Dick dons the Nightwing costume for the first time. Dick eventually meets his replacement, Jason Todd the second Robin. He is angry at Batman for picking a new Robin and, when Jason is murdered by The Joker, unloads on Batman claiming he is responsible for the boy’s death. Dick and Starfire’s relationship becomes very serious, they get engaged and are on the eve of their wedding when the demon Trigon attacks and ruins the occasion. Doubts about their feelings for each other arise, and Starfire leaves the Earth. Around this time, Batman has his back broken by the juiced up Bane and is replaced by the anti-hero Azreal. Dick and Azreal clash, and after the latter drops the Batman identity, Dick takes it up for a short while as Batman heals.

Free of the Teen Titans and his Gotham City ties, Dick moves to Bludhaven, a neighboring city to Gotham with an even worse crime rate. Dick works as a bartender and eventually a police officer in Bludhaven, while battling the local kingpin Blockbuster. He’s eventually reunited with his now grown adult Teen Titans teammates who form simply The Titans. Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, also comes back into Dick’s life and their romance is rekindled. At one point, when the Justice League are lost in ancient Atlantis, Dick takes the reigns of leadership for the team in the present. This leads into his leadership role of The Outsiders, a team originally organized by Batman. Alongside former Titan teammate Arsenal, Dick becomes more and more like Batman, keeping an emotional distance between he and his teammates. Dick’s ongoing battle with Blockbuster comes to end when he lets vigilante Tarantula shoot the villain. During this time, the death of Donna Troy (formerly Wonder Girl) has shaken Dick up and he is making very poor judgment calls.

This chapter in Dick’s life comes to a close during a major global crisis. The Secret Society of Super-Villains drops the living chemical bomb Chemo on Bludhaven, effectively destroying the city and killing its entire population. Dick front and center when the villainous Alexander Luthor and Superboy-Prime (twisted alternate reality versions of their namesakes) seek to destroy and recreate the multiverse. In the wake of this battle, Dick travels the globe with Batman and then current Robin, Tim Drake, as they bond as father and sons. Once back in the States, Dick remains with the Outsiders for a short time, then devotes himself fully to the Titans. Everything changes with the death of Batman. Dick returns to Gotham and takes up his adoptive father’s mantle, taking his “brother” Damien Wayne under his wing as the new Robin. Now, Dick Grayson honors the name of his fallen father, defending Gotham City from evil as the all-new Batman!

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